Let’s start with a history lesson. The “Behold the Basilisk” EP by TOOM is a dug-up time capsule, having been recorded in January 2010. The band themselves were formed in 2007, and split not long after this recording. What could have been a long-lost curio, to be spoken of fondly by the few who had inside knowledge, has now been reanimated and set loose by APF records.
What we have is an EP consisting of four stoner doom tracks from an extinct trio. Like those ape dudes at the start of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Teddy-James Driscoll, Jus Smith and Jack Newnham have been enlightened by a big, Black Sabbath obelisk – the legacy of which has been excavated for our enjoyment.
“Snake Chalmers” opens things up, with an acoustic guitar intro that’s highly reminiscent of those mellow Iommi passages from “Master of Reality”. It’s a beautiful, yet deceptive beginning to a collection of crushingly heavy music. Play it for Granny, she’ll be surprised as fuck when the lethal riffage of “There’s Nothing Cute About Cobras” revs up and creates utter destruction. Growling vocals and gruesome, pounding guitars are where we’re at here.
Similar approach for “Mandark”, though this track throws in some variations in riffs and tempo, with a short, but killer “quieter” section. Here and on the final song, “Decapodiformes”, there’s a hint of influence from the likes of Sleep, High On Fire and Mastodon – with relentless, mighty riffs powering through.
Gone but not forgotten, then: it’s introducing and welcoming back TOOM on this impressive EP. Makes you wonder what might have been…
February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.
Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).
Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.
Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.
You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.
The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start! These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless. I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage. Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party. Bloody great way to kick things off!
Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival. Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants. A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage. Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy. This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived! Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them. Main stage next time, please.
Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years. With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief. Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set. The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”. I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.
My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”. Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate). The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses. Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.
RIFF OVERLOAD! Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat! I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold. Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock. Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything! I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.
And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.
For this review of “Salvation, If You Need…”, the second album from UK stoner rock titans 1968, I promise that there will be no messing about, no silly stories, no nonsense whatsoever. I’m not even drinking. Rather, I will endeavour to write a serious review that treats this album with the respect it deserves. Not enough respect to get the article written on schedule, mind; but hey – I never said I was perfect.
Anyone familiar with 1968 from their previous efforts will not be disappointed to learn that the band’s strengths are in full flow here. Thankfully, they’ve also pushed boundaries and explored their psychedelic tendencies further than ever before. Witness opening track “Railroad Boogie”, which teases a funky Blaxploitation groove before unleashing the glorious big riff sound that we expect.
Comparing 1968 to Kyuss is far too obvious and lazy. Jimi Ray’s voice has some of that gruff John Garcia sound (with a little later-period TSOL vocalist Joe Wood), though his vocals have matured to a sincere, soulful timbre. See also, guitarist Sam Orr: schooled in Sabbath riffology and Lizzy attitude, here his Hendrix aspirations are allowed to fly unrestrained. Magnificent washes of sound cascade and add colour everywhere, without being obtrusive.
“Blackwing” is the highlight for me: a refrain that’ll slip into your ears and lodge there. It’s pointless trying to remove it. Whether happy accident or hard slog, this is an epic riff. “Eastern Wind” follows a similar path, but offers enough of its own controlled chaos to stand on its own two feet.
Tom Richards’ bass warms up “Here It Lies” and expertly keeps the vibe dialled on a grungy, early Soundgarden pace. The raw, unrefined blues of “Small Victories” and “God Bless” also allow drummer Dan Amati to show he can play refined and delicate, as well as thundering and determined.
Yes, 1968 are undoubtedly still inspired by the classic rock of the late 60s/early 70’s, but we’re also drinking beers in Satan’s Dive Bar, somewhere in Seattle, with a jukebox that’s stuck on Badmotorfinger. And some Budgie, too, based on the solid cover of that band’s “Guts” that shows up here.
Look, I’ve tried to be serious for once, and I hope you appreciate it, reader. “Salvation, If You Need…” is a truly magnificent piece of work. I’ve been playing it for ages and it hasn’t aged. I’m still discovering little delights everywhere. It has scale and pace that other bands don’t dare trifle with. A contender for Album of the Year, so long as I can get hold of the imminent vinyl release.
Now, who wants to hear about the time Ozzy, Belinda Carlisle and me gate-crashed Venom’s Satanic picnic?
Yes, that’s right: it’s time for another Singles Night! This is no crappy Channel 4 dating show featuring halfwit Instagram influencers, no sir. The type of single we’re talking about here is the vinyl kind – 45 rpm records, beautiful black plastic discs. Seven inches of pure joy!
For the newcomers, I have a pile of unplayed vinyl singles, which I listen to consecutively (A side, then B side). Accompanied by a few drinkies, it’s a most excellent evening of entertainment.
Here’s the latest playlist, featuring some total bangers:
AC/DC – “Touch Too Much” / “Live Wire” / “Shot Down in Flames”
Judas Priest – “Evening Star” / “Beyond the Realms of Death”
Hollywood Beyond – “South Africa” / “The Cocteau Twins – “Orange Appled” / The Fall – “Lucifer Over Lancashire” / Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction – “High Priest of Love”
Pretenders – “Brass in Pocket” / “Swinging London” / “Nervous But Shy”
Billy Idol – “Rebel Yell” / “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows”
Television – “Prove It” / “Venus”
Def Leppard – “Rocket” / “Release Me”
U2 – “The Unforgettable Fire” / “A Sort of Homecoming”
Pet Shop Boys – “Always On My Mind” / “Do I Have to?”
A Flock of Seagulls – “Wishing (I Had a Photograph of You)” / “Committed”
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax” / “One September Monday”
Big Country – “Chance” / “The Tracks of My Tears”
Duran Duran – “Wild Boys” / “(I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement (1984)”
GB Band – “Smasheroo” / “Long Distance Calling”
Petula Clark – “Downtown” / “You’d Better Love Me”
Paula Abdul – “Straight Up” / “Straight Up Power Mix”
Slade – “All Join Hands” / “Here’s to…”
Foreigner – “Say You Will” / “A Night to Remeber”
Chuck Berry – “Reelin’ and Rockin'” / “I Will Not Let You Go”
Whoa, a lot of EPs and mulitple B sides, there!
There you go: another twenty top quality tunes that I enjoyed rocking out to in the Virtual Hot Tub. Well, except maybe Foreigner. But at least Chuck Berry saved the day!
That playlist spans the years and the genres, with some of my favourite artists like AC/DC, Billy Idol and Zodiac Mindwarp rubbing shoulders with pop legends and underground classics. Which ones are you a fan of?
See you soon for another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub!
Over the last year, I’ve reviewed a fair few albums for my pals at Ever Metal, and also continued on my never ending odyssey to explore new music. Old bands, new bands, from the big hitters to the up and comers. But what Rock and Metal albums were my favourites from 2021?
This list answers that question: here are the albums that I enjoyed the most from last year:
10. Stoner – Stoners Rule
9. Here Lies Man – “Ritual Divination”
8. Bloody Hammers – “Songs of Unspeakable Terror”
7. Melvins – “Working with God”
6. Acid Mammoth – “Caravan”
5. Barbarian Hermit – “One”
4. Red Fang – “Arrows”
3. Son of Boar – “Son of Boar”
2. Green Lung – “Black Harvest”
1968 – “Salvation, if you need…”
Another strong year for new music, 2021 managed to deliver that much, at least. There were plenty of other great releases from other artists, this is just my pick of the best – and it certainly wasn’t easy to narrow down to just this ten.
All of the above are superb records, and I’d strongly advise you to check them out. Read the full reviews on Ever Metal (where applicable) and also on here too, in the near future.
Let’s raise a glass to more great music in 2022 – and who knows, maybe some more gigs?!
How did you spend your time during the pandemic? Did you learn a new language or a musical instrument? Did you get out there running, hammering marathons and getting super fit? Or, like most of us, did you hang on there by your finger nails, just about keeping it together and escaping the monotony? Well luckily for us, these two bands – Ungraven and Slomatics – decided to put their talents to creative use and deliver some music to keep us all sane in these bizarre times.
This is one EP, two bands and six songs in total. First off, we have Ungraven, who despite only being formed in 2019 feature musicians of fine pedigree: Jon Davis (Conan), David Ryley (Fudge Tunnel) and Tyler Hodges (Tuskar). “Defeat the Object”, their first offering, features a reliably sturdy riff to nod your head to. Next track, “Onwards She Rides to a Certain Death” comes galloping out of the gates like an armour covered battle horse – it’s no nimble dressage, more like a cavalry charge into a frenzied battle. Ungraven’s final song, “Blackened Gates of Eternity”, has a grinding intensity that has an industrial feel.
Slomatics pick up the baton and start off with the brutally heavy, atmospheric “Kaan”, which seems to move sideways rather than forwards. Slow and hefty, I’ve seen ox bow lakes form quicker than the pace of this monster. “Proto Hag” follows a similar style, but you’ll be glad to learn that it’s even more intense. Slomatics have been building their reputation for some years now, and these tracks confirm their prominence. Their final song, “Monitors” – probably my favourite on the whole EP, though I feel bad singling out one track – only pushes their reputation further. The music is almost trancelike, with a magnetic melodic element.
This split EP is dense and compelling. Both Ungraven and Slomatics impress with their conviction and integrity. The only down side is that 31 minutes just isn’t enough. This is a very enjoyable starter, but it just makes me hunger for a full plate of whatever these two immense bands can serve up. Please sir, can I have some more?
Writing these reviews for Ever Metal isn’t easy, you know. I’m sure I speak for the whole writing team when I say that we pour our heart and soul into all our prose. Each of us lives with the fear of the dreaded Writer’s Block, gnawing at our bones. So, I decided that my review of this reissue of the 2016 debut album by Barbarian Hermit, released by the mighty APF Records, would need some help.
But who could assist with such a task? Why none other than my old friend, Volkrugg the Decimator – barbarian warlord of Ages Long Forgotten. Of course: no-one is better qualified! And seeing as I’ve basically been a hermit for the last year, between us we should have it covered.
Take it away, Volkrugg…
“Greetings, people of the 21st century! I am Volkrugg the Decimator – warlord of the Mist Realm, conqueror of the Thorspian cities, leader of the barbarian hordes of Vossk. My good friend, Al, has begged me for my musings concerning the recorded work of Barbarian Hermit, and lo – shall I render it unto thee with vicious glee!
“From the very start, these seven songs burst forth like an army of Ionian Thrask Vandals! They wield their war axes with vengeful power, surging down from the mountains on thundering hooves of hell. The brief respite of sometime calmer moods offer shelter from the maelstrom of war, yet always the majesty and power of conflict lurks temptingly!
“Verily, hearing these odes, I was mindful of my fallen brothers from glorious battles past – gone but ne’er forgotten, proudly drinking and brawling in Valhalla!”
There you go, I couldn’t have said it better myself. “One” is a great, sludgy, fuzzy celebration of relentless force and mesmerising intricacies. Both Volkrugg, his band of berserker warriors and myself are all big fans. You’d be a fool of mythic proportions to miss this album, and be warned – Volkrugg fed his last court jester to a tiger. Barbarian Hermit reviewed by a barbarian and a hermit – you can’t get a more honest opinion than that.
Well, here we are then. The debut album from Bradford based sonic butchers, Son of Boar. And yes, I am quite excited about this release. There are long lost civilisations existing in the South American jungle that, despite having no contact with the outside world, are aware that your pal, Platinum Al, has been desperate to hear this cacophonous compendium for some time.
So, is it any good? Well yeah, obviously. But just what kind of good I shall reveal.
There are five tracks on this eponymous release, across which Son of Boar attempt to cover as much ground as possible. Yes, this is Stoner Doom – it is heavy, it has groove, it has a windswept musical vista that is both fierce and welcoming.
I’ve already reviewed first track, “Stoned Wail”, when it was released as a single a while ago. This mix is punchier though, and still satisfying regardless of any familiarity. The calm wash of ocean waves accompanies a benign introduction; until, just over two minutes in, the full electric muscle of the band is released. SOB hit their groove and plough relentlessly on, whilst vocalist Luke roars about some sweet girl called Mary. I don’t know who Mary is, but she seems like a nice, compassionate lady.
The slow sludge of song number one is contrasted by “All in Your Head”, where SOB pick up the pace and gallop home with a Kyuss covering Maiden flourish. Great rhythm work from Gaz (bass) and Luke D (drums). “Satanic Panic” then devolves brilliantly into the sort of the Corrosion of Conformity style Sabbath worship that enthralled James Hetfield. Powerful, even graceful, but remorseless.
“Snakes and Daggers” reminds me of Motorhead played too slow (33rpm not 45, for the fossils out there). Here the pace varies, with a great, almost psychedelic melodic swash emerging like a surprise visit from a long-lost drinking buddy. Then your old pal gets stinking drunk and kicks off in the taxi rank, and you’re desperately clutching your kebab in puzzlement. What?
You should listen to “Cities of the Deadeyed Priestess” just because it’s a genius song title. It also has some bizarro samples that I need to investigate. Musically, this is another brutal head crusher: meat and potatoes riffs and fine melodic hues courtesy of guitarists Lyndon and Adam.
And there you have it: five songs, one debut album. A fine band; they’re awesome live, have the best t-shirt designs I’ve seen in donkeys and are creating a real sense of cult-like, underground authenticity that is addictive. If I could afford to buy a copy of this album for everyone reading this review, I would. Even that weirdo at the back.
And Son of Boar have only just begun their journey…
The Brothers Keg – Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg
Release date: 11/09/2020
Running time: 44 minutes
Review by: Alun Jones
And lo, the ancient seers have foretold of the coming of the Brothers Keg. Anticipation building slowly, the wise masters of APF Records have foretold a fortuitous event, something that would elate the masses and bring joyous union to the land. At least it feels that way, Old Al can’t be the only one who’s been expecting something special with this release.
The Brothers Keg are a three-piece band from London way; comprising Tom Fyfe on drums, Tom Hobson on guitar and vocals and Paul Rosser on bass/vocals. Together, their music is colossal stoner/doom with a huge sound, massive ambition, and a fine angle on self-mythologising. The result is an album so epic, so over the top and downright fun – that the Brothers deserve every ounce of assured swagger that they no doubt possess.
Tom Hobson himself describes the sound as “HP Lovecraft meets Queen’s Flash Gordon listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the wrong speed smoking a medieval spliff dipped in poppers.” That’s this review written really – do I need to sell this any harder to you?
If you need more persuasion, imagine a cult sci-fi fantasy B-movie soundtrack featuring spoken word narration and bludgeoning riffs, and you’re halfway there. Tracks like “Moorsmen” and “The Army of the Thirsty Blade Approaches” are skull splittingly mighty, generating a genuine feeling of excitement.
“No Earthly Form” and “Brahman” have it all: heavy guitar and pounding rhythm; countered with atmospheric psychedelia that the listener can absorb like a movie. “Brahman” is nearly 13 minutes of music that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome: from meditative chanting, a killer stoner riff, and washes of acid-soaked guitars creating a spacious landscape.
The narration adds to the band’s mystique without being cheesy or silly. Yes, it’s all ridiculously good fun – but the sheer weight of musical invention adds up to something exceptional. Add in some glorious cover artwork (that looks like a cyborg He-Man pursued by a demented Skeletor) and “Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg” possesses an undeniable charisma. I want the vinyl, the t-shirt, the poster – I want everything. Hell, I want Brothers Keg action figures (with weapons and musical accessories, features small parts, ages 3 and up) and I want them NOW!
Another contender for album of the year? You betcha.
Of course, the Brothers Keg aren’t the only famous brothers in rock. Those crazy Van Halen boys are two of my favourites – oh, I used to have some wild times with them. Like the time they pulled the thread out of the crotch of David Lee Roth’s pants, so when he performed one of his patented scissor jumps – the pants split and Diamond Dave’s family jewels were revealed for all. You didn’t need to be in the front row to see it everything, I can tell you.
Dave had his revenge at a later gig, though. Backstage, he switched out the blue M&Ms in a complimentary dish for laxative pills; Eddie’s tight white trousers were not a pleasant site at all that night. Now you know why their rider has always stipulated the blue M&Ms are removed ever since.
Good riddance, 2020! Am I right, or what? Still, it’s not all bad. There were some absolutely magnificent albums released last year – some I reviewed for my buddies atEver Metal, some I discovered through other means. Some were massive, huge hits; others were small yet mighty triumphs.
Despite a lack of live music, there was plenty to investigate music-wise. So much so that it was really difficult to compile my annual Top 10 Albums list for Ever Metal. A few giants of rock and metal, though they released highly accomplished work, were reluctantly forsaken in my search for the crème de la crop.
Here they are, in (natch) reverse order:
10. The Goners – “Good Mourning”
9. Supersuckers – “Play That Rock’n’Roll”
8. Testament – “Titans of Creation”
7. Weed Demon – “Crater Maker”
6. The Atomic Bitchwax – “Scorpio”
5. Volcanova – “Radical Waves”
4. The Brothers Keg – “Folklore, Myths and Legends of The Brothers Keg”
3. Son of Boar – “Stoned Wail”
2. Desert Storm – “Omens”
AC/DC – “Power Up”
I thought that this year, one of the smaller, indie label bands was sure to get to number 1. It almost happened, but then AC/DC released the total brain melter of “Power Up”, pretty much saving 2020 in the process. Now if only Angus and Co could release an album monthly, we might be able to get through 2021.
A few shout outs for notable mentions who didn’t make the cut this year, such as Ozzy, Wino and others. Seriously can’t believe I left out “Danzig Sings Elvis”, though.
You can read my full Top 10 (plus plenty of others) on the Ever Metal website, which also features links to songs and videos. Highly recommended! The direct link is here.
All the best for 2021 – here’s hoping for more great music!